Much of my life I suffered from anxiety on a regular basis. Obviously this is not a fun (or useful) state in which to be. The good news is that I found some techniques that really helped me manage my anxiety, and they are still helpful when I do have one of those moments. One of my favorites is what I call power walking.
Have you noticed that when you feel anxious, you physically feel different? It’s not just a feeling in the sense of an emotion, but a feeling in your body. This is true of all emotions, and I would imagine that’s why they are also called feelings. For me, when I feel anxious it’s this fluttery feeling in my chest, and I feel very restless as if I couldn’t sit still if you paid me.
Since our bodies carry our emotions, it is sometimes useful to use our bodies to process those emotions. That’s part of what power walking is about. Obviously walking is using our bodies, so the first part of power walking is to start walking!
The second piece is to process your thoughts as you are walking by talking out loud. This exercise can move you through truly processing your thoughts, when sometimes just thinking your thoughts can’t. When we speak out loud, we access a different part of our brain than when we’re just thinking, which is why this works.
This difference between thinking thoughts and speaking them is also part of why talk therapy is effective. Many times clients figure out the answers they’re looking for in the course of describing the problem to the therapist! Ooops – maybe I shouldn’t share that or I’ll be out of a job! 🙂
So, here’s how you use this very simple technique for reducing anxiety: you go outside (ideally) and start walking briskly and talking out loud. It’s that easy. If you’re worried that people will overhear you and wonder why you’re talking to yourself, use your cell phone or bluetooth as a prop. These days no one thinks anything about people talking to themselves when they see their bluetooth earpiece in place!
Your talk is a stream of consciousness. Just start with whatever thought is foremost in your mind, and see where it leads you. If it helps, you can imagine you’re talking to someone else. Describe to them what is going on for you.
You will be amazed to find that solutions to problems will come to you as you’re talking to yourself. You might find yourself considering a new perspective on something that is upsetting you. Or maybe you’ll talk yourself right into realizing that whatever you’re stressing about is really not that big of a deal.
For several years I have been taking a daily walk in the morning, and whether or not I’m feeling anxious, I talk out loud to myself. If there’s something in particular on my mind, I’ll start talking about that situation. If I don’t have anything in particular, I’ll just start talking and see what comes out of my mouth.
In addition to reducing my anxiety this way, I have had numerous insights and inspirations while taking power walks. New ideas come to me, seemingly out of the blue. My belief is that physical activity coupled with speaking out loud gives access to a part of ourselves that isn’t always available to us when we just sit and think. I view it as an active meditation.
On the surface it may sound a little crazy to walk and talk out loud to yourself, but it is one of the things that has kept me from feeling crazy when I am anxious. Give it a try and see. I have no doubt you will be pleasantly surprised.